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UCLA Basketball News Roundup: Utah’s Krystkowiak Says Bruins are “Playing Great”

Coach Cronin thinks the Bruins’ defense “couldn’t play much better”

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Oregon
Jules Bernard was the unlikely star last night for the Bruins.
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The UCLA Bruins basketball team played another “perfect game” on defense and found timely offense again from a seemingly forgotten source for a 69-58 win over the Utah Utes. Let’s lead what Utah’s head coach Larry Krystkowiak said in the Salt Lake City Tribune:

“I give those guys a lot of credit. They’re playing great, they all understand their roles....”

An example of that great play on defense came after a Utah timeout and it is how Ben Bolch chose to lead off his article in the LA Times:

UCLA was making it troublesome to score, jamming passing lanes, staying in front of everyone and switching crisply on screens.

Looking lost for long stretches, Utah used a full-length timeout to plan its attack early in the second half. The Utes passed and passed and passed, probing for an opening. None arose.

Finally, Both Gach rose for a three-pointer but it was too late. The buzzer went off, signaling a shot-clock violation. Already restless fans booed inside the Huntsman Center.

The frustration mounted against a defense that was in lockdown mode, UCLA continually stifling the Utes on the way to a 69-58 victory Thursday night that extended the Bruins’ winning streak to four games.

Coach Krystkowiak is a good coach, especially when it comes to X and Os. Yet, he could not even get a shot off after a timeout. In his postgame press conference, Mick Cronin said:

I thought, defensively, we couldn’t play much better than we played.

Robert Carpentier of Bruin Report Online focuses part of his article on Jules Bernard. His point on Bernard (emphasis added) is well worth noting:

Two Bruins had very good games, Bernard and Tyger Campbell. Bernard came off the bench, and with Chris Smith in foul trouble, scored 14 first-half points and played very good on-ball defense and opportunistic help defense. It was Bernard’s best half ever as a Bruin because it was comprehensive. Further, it was good to see, because there have been times this season where Bernard has struggled to embrace what Cronin was asking him to do. He always gives really good effort, especially on defense, and his game is one where he could be a go-to scorer for this team in the future, so seeing his buy-in to the Cronin system grow is encouraging for fans and has to be be for the player.

The defense has been great during the current winning streak and, maybe, that is what you expect from a Cronin team. Yet, the offense has come from “forgotten” bench players at times against the Pac-12. Jake Kyman against Washington, Cody Riley against Washington State, and last night Jules Bernard. Bernard for his part said:

“Well, for me, I think my defense started it. I got a steal and a dunk, so that sort of got my juices flowing. And then I got a wide-open shot off a great pass from Cody Riley. And after that, I was just in the flow of things and I felt comfortable. And then trying to slow down and make the right play, then they started playing me for my shot and I would take it in. I just tried to play smart and [took] what the defense gave me.”

Thanks, Jules. This is a bit surreal and I feel strange saying it but let’s close with Ryan Smith writing for the Daily Bruin:

Thursday’s victory was also UCLA’s first at Utah in over three years, and it helped it remain just one game back of [first place] No. 18 Colorado in the Pac-12 standings with four games left to play in the regular season.

The Bruins will have a chance to upset the Buffaloes for the second time this season Saturday afternoon. A UCLA win would give it the head-to-head tiebreaker in the event the two teams finish with identical conference records.

I think a second game in two days at altitude against an elite home team in Colorado is a very heavy lift, but to have a chance to tie the first place Buffaloes this late in the season is nothing short of amazing.

Go Bruins!